There has been so much going on since my last post. The Canadians and us InterStudy girls welcomed the other International/Exchange Students to Howard, and since then it has been a whirlwind of immersion. Immersion in each other on this campus, into our new lives as students here – everything. Though I have felt pangs of missing certain people, there has been an incredible shift in the way I see myself here. I am not only here to take a few classes and see what happens in a short amount of time… I am here to fully immerse myself in this beautiful country amongst amazing people (and monkeys).
With immersion comes the issue of barriers. Barriers created by language, appearance, stereotypes, etc… The other International students have come here from across the globe, and we have found common ground in the sense that we have very little grounding here in Durban. Often times you will see our group looking completely lost and/or frustrated. But with those tensions comes also a feeling of belonging as we attempt to make a new life here at UKZN. We are all attempting to immerse ourselves here… Which makes for other confusing emotions as we attempt to strike a balance with the needs of our loved ones who are missing us… It can be so difficult.
Yesterday was my first day of classes here at UKZN Howard. It was a day filled with anxiety and pride as I ran around campus locating my classes and walking into rooms with people I had never seen before, having no idea what to expect. The majority of students here live off campus, therefore there have been many new faces around. I scrambled out of bed at 6:30 in the morning to shower and prepare for my first class which meets at 7:45am. Luckily, Tahmina, Bisola and Tatiana are also in the course (RELG307 – Religion and Healing Systems) so we ambled our way there together. But of course, as we were warned, no lecturer ever showed up to begin our Howard academic experience.. So we left – each of us off on a journey to the next classroom. Having a chunk of free time, I went back to Res and made myself a late breakfast of cereal and yogurt. Then it was off to the illucid “CC2″… and unknown location for my RELG207 – Religion, Migration, and Urbanization course. Luckily I found the class without struggle and was happy to have my first introduction into academia here. My Professor is from Seychelles and introduced the course and his expectations to a giant lecture hall that was maybe a third full.. I introduced myself after and learned that he actually studied at Temple University in Philadelphia at one point.
LING101 – Understanding Language met later in the afternoon and to say that I was lost on the way is a true understatement. Memorial Tower Building (MTB) is huge and I found myself wandering up and down the staircase (where there is no AirCon) with little help from local students who also did not know where lecture hall “L3″ was. Great… I happily joined a group of lost first years also wandering the building, and we eventually found a Professor who showed us the way and we walked into the lecture hall dripping in sweat.
After Linguistics was my ANTH301 – Applied Anthropology course. I was happy to know exactly where it was since its location read “SH7″ which is in the same building as Anita’s office. I entered and noticed a small cluster of students toward the back of the classroom and asked if I was indeed in the right place and got a rather unwelcoming “ya”. So I settled in the side-middle of the room… finally an Anthro class.. home. The lecturer entered not long after and spoke to the five of us who could not have been sitting farther away from her location. She spoke with me after class and welcomed me which made me far less nervous and gave me a sense of triumph as I packed my bag up to return to Res.
It is such an amazingly overwhelming experience stepping out of the comfortable known world of HWS, but I am so enjoying this sense of re-birth and renewal that I am getting from this process of immersing myself in this sometimes totally unfamiliar world here in South Africa. The response from family, friends and strangers to this blog has been surprising and meaningful, and I am so grateful for all of the feedback you have shared. Thank you for coming on this journey with me… I am loving it!